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Long ago in a village called Thuckalay, there lived a brave 16-year-old girl who was the best in swimming. She represented her country and won many competitions bringing glory and honour to her village. Her name was Sunitha and she was differently-able. She lost both her legs, when she was eleven years old, in a car crash. This accident had caused her a lot of pain.

Sunitha always felt like an outcast after her accident. Students mocked her and teased her, for not having legs. Her, once, so-called- ‘best friend’ had also abandoned her. Her life was filled with dread and misery. Her parents tried their best to cheer her up, but it was all in vain. She took the last bench in the class and stayed away from all the students. She rolled her wheelchair, as fast as she could, to avoid people. But, deep inside her heart, all she ever wanted was to be loved. Even her teachers couldn’t help her cope up with her difficulty. Even though she was ready to move from 6th grade to the 7th grade, she was not willing to get critiqued from all the new people she will meet that year. Her fears always haunted her.

This academic year, her school had managed to get a new pool inside the school premises and also a trainer, Ms. Sana. The 7th graders had their swimming tutelage on the Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, before the recess.

Before the car accident, Sunitha was a proficient swimmer, well-known all throughout the village for her marvellous skills in butterfly stroke. But, after the accident, she decided to stay away from the waters. She pleaded to the headmistress to get an exemption from the swimming classes But it was not granted. This left her with no choice, but to attend the class.

It was finally Monday. The day her swimming lessons began. Stepping into the pool, after two years, made her anxious. All the other students had already dived into the pool, but Sunitha hesitated. She stood there staring at the placid water. Ms. Sana noticing Sunitha enquired the reason she was not inside the waters. Sunitha gave a quick reply that she did not want to get drowned. But the truth was not what she told. It was the fear of getting bullied which kept her on the land. Ms. Sana let her be by herself. Later, Ms. Sana asked Sunitha to meet her by the end of the day.

In the evening, it was only Sunitha and Ms. Sana in the AV room. Everything in the room was still, quiet, and awkward. To break the silence, Ms. Sana quickly turned on the huge monitor. Sunitha figured out that it was some sort of a motivational speech session. She realised it was Nick Vujicic, the man suffering from a medical condition called phocomelia, multi-talented with a keen interest in all fields. She closely paid attention to his words. “It’s a lie to think you’re not good enough. It’s a lie to think you’re not worth anything.” These words kept pondering over and over in her head. He also mentioned the words of HRH, The Duke of Sussex, “You are the most optimistic and connected generation the world has ever known.” Sunitha was astonished by the works of Nick. She left without uttering a single word. She had a sleepless night. “The only reason Nick became ‘Loved by all’ was because he accepted himself as he was. His positivity and will power got him to the places.” she kept thinking to herself. She finally decided. “I only fail if I stop trying. I’m going to give another attempt at swimming.”

The next morning, Sunitha looked almost like a completely different person. Her glowing face showed that she was excited about something that was yet to come. All she ever thought about was her swimming class. Even her schoolmates were shocked to see the changes in her. When the clock ticked for her next swimming period, she rushed her wheels to the locker room. Ms. Sana was surprised to see Sunitha being the first to enter the class. Her eyes were twinkling with excitement. It was her first time after the incident. There were a few mean girls mocking at her from a corner, but this time, she did not bother about their words. Once she was inside the waters, she was comfortable. She was caught up in the euphoria of her accomplishment. Just by avoiding the negativity, she fulfilled her desire. She slowly picked up her pace. With all the skills she learnt before, she moved gracefully in the water.

In the corner of the room stood Ms. Sana admiring the determined girl. Just like Sunitha, Ms. Sana too had a goal. To take Sunitha to the spot, she deserves. With the help of her acquaintances, she managed to get a coach who trains special students. She practiced regularly and even started participating in some competitions. Sunitha enhanced her skills with the help of the coach. Within days, she managed to get back her fame. She became the nouvelle vague in the village. Soon the ‘Star of the village’ became the ‘Star of the country’.

People from all the over the country were ready to sponsor her. A renowned firm even got her a pair of prosthesis and an expensive wheelchair. But these materialistic pleasures did not please Sunitha. She set her eyes on the Para-Commonwealth Games. As the number of days decreased for the contest, her practise sessions got tougher and tougher. Each day, she tried to learn something new. Her coach was also happy with her improvement.

The D-day finally arrived. She could feel the adrenaline rushing in her blood. But she seemed to enjoy the feeling. “In a few more minutes, the competition will begin. The contestants are requested to reach the starting point”, the MC announced. Sunitha, who was totally ready, got some last-minute tips from Ms. Sana who had come to cheer. She then rushed to the starting spot. “On the count of three, the competition will begin”, the MC announced. ” One! Two! Three!” There was a clap sound and Sunitha dived into the water. “Splash” the water wet the concrete floor. “Shush, Shush, shush” The water went back as she pushed herself forward. She could hear the crowd chanting, “Sunitha! Sunitha!” This kept her spirits high as she continued. She was almost near the end line; that is when she heard this bizarre scream. It was one of the participants. Her breathing system had gone bad. She could barely breathe. With great difficulty she gasped and shouted for help. Her scream for ‘HELP!’ showed the pain she was going through. Without any second thoughts, Sunitha immediately changed her tract to aid the hurt participant. The other participants, too, rushed towards her. The whole stadium was in their heels to get a clear view of what was going on. No participant took advantage of the incident and raced forward. Everyone was concerned about the hurt contestant. When they realised the contestant was alright, they altogether manoeuvred towards the end line. The audience raised their hands high and started applauding as loud as they could. It was history in the making!

Later, when Sunitha was interviewed her chin was held high up. She was as proud as a peacock. Reporters came rushing towards her. She said, “A diamond, even if broken down into pieces has its own worth. In the same way a person’s ingenuity does not depend only in the presence of proper functioning organs. I knew people who optimistically helped me make my life better. I cannot promise that I will make the lives of every special person better, but I can promise to use this Commonwealth connection and make the lives of at least a few special people, special.”

After a couple of days, Sunitha returned to her hometown. All the people in the town gathered at the railway station to welcome her. As the train pulled in, the fireworks lit the sky. She may not have brought home a gold medal, yet her selfless soul captivated the hearts of everyone. Sunitha, along with her co-contestants had started “PARACHUTE”, an organisation that would reach out to people, at times when they were falling down into helplessness. Be it financial aid, educational scholarship, or just a person to talk to (councillor), the Friends of Parachute were there for the young adults throughout the commonwealth nations. Using the digital space, they were able to reach out to every small island in the commonwealth.

A lit matchstick can either be doused off or sparkle in the drab. She chose to ignite and shine. She was generous in letting her overflowing sanguinity quench all the commonwealth countries. The overflowing energy and optimism around her, spread all around the world. She may have had broken legs, but her unbroken heart captured everyone!

Bio: Mariane is a fun – loving girl, who is a budding writer. She has written numerous short stories and poems, including one to the “Queen’s commonwealth essay competition” for which her 2019 submission won a gold medal.


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